According to the Labour Force Survey1 earlier this year, disabled people are more than twice as likely to be unemployed as non-disabled people. It’s clear there are still plenty of misconceptions about employing disabled people – that it may be more expensive, or that it will somehow reduce productivity.
“evidence shows that disabled people are, on average, just as productive as non-disabled people, have less time off sick, fewer workplace accidents and stay in their jobs longer” (Evenbreak 2020).
As for what disabled candidates are capable of, there is no such thing as a job that no disabled person can do; they have the same range of skills and abilities as any other person, if not a more exceptional skill set.
Living with a disability in today’s society comes hand-in-hand with outstanding creativity, determination, and problem-solving abilities: a result of having to adapt to physical and systemic barriers on a daily basis.
When Evenbreak was founded in 2011, a few employers were becoming aware of this “pool of untapped talent”, yet they described being unable to attract disabled candidates. Meanwhile, being disabled herself and working as a Diversity Consultant, Jane was aware of the challenge of finding employers that were inclusive in practice and not just on paper.
Jane’s first-hand awareness of both problems led her to create Evenbreak, the UK’s most accessible job board. The social enterprise is tackling the disability employment gap from both sides of recruitment. It’s helping disabled candidates to find employers that are truly committed to equal opportunities. At the same time, it's sharing best practice with employers so that they can ensure their recruitment approach is as inclusive as possible.
“The last thing we needed was more non-disabled people telling disabled people what they need” Jane explains. She decided right from the beginning that Evenbreak would only employ disabled people. It means the board is designed by the people it wants to attract; all decisions are led by the lived experience and expert insights of the team.
This ethos has already attracted over 45,000 disabled candidates, as well as up to 30,000 job opportunities a year from employers committed to inclusion. Last year, the success of the venture meant that Evenbreak was ready to grow, and Jane saw that UnLtd’s social business accelerator Thrive: Access to Employment could help make this happen.
UnLtd Support Manager Laura Marney helped Jane to work through every part of the business – discovering its strengths and identifying any shortcomings. A strength of Evenbreak was Jane’s expert leadership, informed by years of direct experience in the field. However, creating a sustainable venture needed to involve unlocking Jane’s expertise and sharing it with the rest of the company.
Conversations with the team followed, and shone a light on other individuals’ strong points, such as Evenbreak COO Rachael Salt’s love of processes. Within the six months of the programme, they had co-produced a set of manuals that shared Jane’s vision for Evenbreak, as well as how to put it into practice. Included in the vision was their strategy for growth, something Jane and Laura worked on closely together.
Looking at her own skillset as well as those of her talented team, Jane has been able to create an environment where every employee is able to “flourish and thrive”, continuously playing to their strengths. This culture, alongside flexible working arrangements, makes Evenbreak a, "role model organisation for how to work inclusively” Jane explains.
Through sharing best practice with multi-national companies like Unilever, Amazon and PwC, there is no doubt that the insights Evenbreak deliver will improve the recruitment experience for thousands of candidates. However, as the job board does not yet provide individual support for candidates, Jane notes it has been difficult to track numbers that illustrate the venture’s social impact.
Looking forward, this may change. Evenbreak’s current offer of the accessible job board alongside its Best Practice Portal for employers may be expanded to include bespoke candidate support, “We are looking at employing some disabled careers professionals that work on a one-to-one basis, whether that’s coaching around interview techniques, or helping someone get their CV up to scratch.”
In line with their core value of accessibility, they would like to provide this hands-on support without charge, so introducing it will depend on a strong recovery from COVID-19. While the beginning of the pandemic saw recruitment freeze for many employers, Jane describes “things picking up inexplicably”. In the last couple of months, Evenbreak has taken on double its usual uptake of annual partnerships, which certainly bodes well for the year ahead.
To find out more about Evenbreak and support them, visit Evenbreak's website.
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